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We’re meeting families in their homes and neighborhoods. We’re welcoming them as engaged, contributing community scientists—finding answers to their questions and sharing results with them in real time.

In Texas, many children live in poverty, suffer from chronic illness, or endure abuse and neglect. Despite years of targeted intervention, these issues persist. Now a team of researchers from across campus is working alongside community partners to change the way science helps society thrive.

Whole Communities—Whole Health is one of three UT grand challenge initiatives rethinking “research as usual.”

“There’s always been a dilemma in research: we collect a great deal of data about study participants, but often the data isn’t shared with them so that they can use it or learn from it,” says Sarah Kate Bearman, assistant professor in the Department of Educational Psychology. “Now, with incredible advances in technology, there is the possibility of getting information back to study participants quickly.”

Faculty from across campus are contributing to Whole Communties—Whole Health, which kicked off in fall 2018. Bearman is one of two faculty members from the College of Education taking part. The other is Darla Castelli, professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education.

Traditional research studies take snapshots of peoples’ lives at different points. Advances in measurement and technology allow for a better understanding of the complex and dynamic ways in which people live their lives. Whole Communities—Whole Health hopes to use that technology to build a more complete view—a movie, compared to a snapshot—of the many factors that affect a child’s wellbeing.

One of the unique features of this initiative is the emphasis on returning this information back to the people who can best put it to use. Study results and insights will be returned to participants and community organizations quickly—and in some cases in real time—so that information can be a catalyst for change.

Learn more at Bridging Barriers.

Educational Psychology Professor Aaron B. Rochlen shares how the Joker movie connects to the Joker archetype and the shadow. Rochlen is licensed psychologist and a professor of counseling psychology and counselor education in the College of Education at The University of Texas at Austin.

Joker continues to crush box office records.  Reasons for the success and Oscar buzz have been frequently discussed. As a psychology professor I believe that the Joker provides a creative opportunity to take look within our own psychology and challenges our rigid views of good and evil.

Carl Jung, the famous psychologist who split from his mentor Sigmund Freud, would have loved this movie. Jung wrote about the collective unconscious, a practical part of our genetic makeup we share with others across cultures and continents. At the core of the collective unconscious, are archetypes, with the “Joker” being one of the more interesting examples.

For Arthur Fleck, the main character, Joker is not only his name, but represents to the viewers a psychological significance worthy of reflection.

“The Joker” archetype lives in all of us, but may lie dormant in our minds. When activated, the “Joker” uses humor as a defense, covering up pain, and perceived injustices. Jokers resolve conflicts by bringing joy or a smile to others – momentarily deflecting their own pain.  Seeing others entertained brings relief to feelings of profound sadness or unresolved wounds.

As viewers, we may relate to Fleck. Questions to ask yourself may include: Where do you use humor to deflect pain or sadness?  When has comedy been a part of covering up tragedy or pain? And where can this style be healthy or unhealthy in your life and relationships?

The Joker also challenges our tendency to categorize others into “good” or “bad” – “hero” or “villain.” We don’t want to acknowledge how people who commit atrocious crimes can have positive traits.  Conversely, it’s hard to acknowledge that “good” people have destructive impulses.

Interestingly, this part of the movie is also the most controversial.  Some have frowned on how the movie creates an empathic audience response for the lead character. It can be disturbing to feel empathy toward those who commit heinous acts. And the Joker definitely does just that, evolving into one of the most legendary antagonists in motion picture history.

However, he is not all bad. None of us are. Bad people have good traits just as good people have dark edges. Fleck cared for his mother, entertained kids in a cancer ward, tried to make an honest living, and longed to love.

It’s natural to feel compassion or sympathy for Fleck for the abuse, bullying and humiliation he endured. This doesn’t mean we endorse his behaviors or murderous coping tragedies.

Having these feelings for the “bad guy” doesn’t cause anyone to head down a disturbing path. Doing so may even allow us to acknowledge our own “bad guy,” avoiding trouble, protecting us from harm to others and ourselves.  For Jung, this inner bad guy was part of our Shadow, the parts of ourselves that are harder to recognize or acknowledge.

This movie is a psychological primer for that lesson and others. And that’s a lesson for all of us.

 

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Special Education has re-energized its Concentration in Equity and Diversity. The program explores the intersections of disability, race, ethnicity, language, social class, nationality, gender, and sexuality in education and society.

Listen in as Associate Professor Audrey Sorrels and Assistant Professor North Cooc, who lead the initiative, discuss why the concentration is needed, who the concentration serves and hopes to attract, as well as their own personal and scholarly interest in the topic.

Housing costs have risen dramatically and this rise is especially problematic for parents. This talk reviews recent data on housing affordability and considers the implications of data for parents and caregivers with children.

Jennifer Jellison Holme is an associate professor of educational policy and planning in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy. Holme’s research focuses on the politics and implementation of educational policy, with a particular focus on the relationship between school reform, equity, and diversity in schools. Her research interests include school desegregation, currently focusing on inter-district programs; high stakes testing, including exit level testing; and school choice policy.